December 31, 2007

Happy New Year - And Welcome to National Diet Month!

If you visit your local supermarket on Wednesday morning the first thing you'll notice is that the isle that last week was full of holiday candy is now filled with expensive branded "diet" foods.

It's diet season. For the next four weeks people will eat diet bars, diet shakes, diet drinks, diet pills, and they'll drive up the price of boneless chicken breast. They'll clog the gyms and make it miserable for those of you who go to the gym every month.

It all ends the last week of January when the supermarkets move the diet food off the feature shelves and replace it with chips, dips, and Cheez Whiz for the Super Bowl. At that point most people's diets will have completely failed and they'll give up for another year.

If you've decided it's time to burn off those holiday pounds, good for you! But if you'd like to succeed on this year's diet, here are a few tips gleaned from my years of dieting adventures which you can read about in more detail on my Low Carb Diet Facts web site:

1.Avoid packaged "diet" foods and drugs. Many of them are full of soy, which is far from healthy. You can find out the facts about soy from this excellent book: The Whole Soy Story by Kayla T. Daniel. They are also filled with tons of additives of the sort you'd never eat in anything home cooked: glycerine, maltitol, modified food starch, etc. Many of these will raise your blood sugar--especially maltitol and glycerine. Raised blood sugar and/or insulin levels cause hunger.

Not only that, but bars and shakes filled with chemicals do not replace the high quality protein you find in good meat and cheese nor do the chemicals in them replace the nutrients you'll find in fresh salad greens and vegetables. A month of living on diet bars and shakes will leave you depleted of many nutrients and that, too, can make you hungry.

If you want to lose weight eat small portions of real food. Meat, soup, salad, green vegetables, cheese, colorful berries. If you keep your blood sugar flat, you will avoid hunger, which is the main benefit of a low carb diet for those of us with diabetes. If you aren't hungry, it's a lot easier to cut down on what you eat.

2. Be realistic about how much you will lose each week.

At the start of any diet you may see a dramatic drop in your weight. This is due entirely to flushing water out of your body and reducing your stomach contents. After that initial drop, you will very slowly start to lose real weight.

How much? You can see some very revealing graphs showing how much weight dozens of devoted low carb dieters lost over a period of many months HERE.

As you can see after the first couple weeks when people lose a lot of water weight, the median weight loss for a woman who weighs between 150-250 lbs is 4-5 lbs a month. That's about one pound a week. So if you have 50 pounds to lose, and "only" lose 1 pound a week you're doing great.

If you're an older lady, like me, don't even dream of losing a pound a week. A pound a month may be more like it, thanks to the natural slowing of metabolism that occurs for everyone as we get older.

3. Exercise has benefits, but weight loss is NOT one of them.

The people who sell gym memberships will promise you that going to the gym alone will cause you to lose weight. This is not true. The "calorie burning" counts you see displayed on the machines in the gym are completely fictional. This was recently documented by Gina Kolata writing in the New York Times HERE.

Many of us find that exercise makes us hungry. This is particularly true for people with diabetes because exercise makes our blood sugar fluctuate. If you come home from the gym ravenous and eat a couple hundred calories under the impression you've burned off more, you'll gain weight, not lose it. Exercise to look hot, build strength, and maintain cardiovascular fitness.

To get slim, cut out food. If you aren't sure what you are eating, invest in a food scale, weigh portions and look up the calories in that exact portion. If you don't know how much to eat, calculate your metabolic need with this handy tool: Calories Per Day Calculator. Be sure to describe yourself as "sendentary" as you probably are unless you are training for a marathon, play Football, or hang wallpaper for a living. Most of us way overestimate our activity level, even if we go to the gym.

A study of successful dieters who kept large amounts of weight off for many years found many of them only started exercising after losing the weight. That was my own experience and a whole year of near daily gym attendance did not help me lose further weight. I maintained my weight loss without exercise for several years thanks to some orthopedic problems, too.

So don't fall for the hype about exercise. Weight is about how much food you eat.

4. Cutting Carbs Helps but Calories Rule

The people who earn millions selling diet books and doing infomercials always tell you that their diet is all you need for success. Most of them greatly oversimplify the issues involved in dieting. I've met people who have lost large amounts of weight on just about any diet you can think of. I've also met people who have stalled on every possible diet, too.

So I am not going to tell you that if you cut the carbs weight will drop off like magic and you can eat luxuriously while watching pounds fade away. I find it easier to lose weight when I cut carbs--but only if I also cut my calories down significantly. Avoiding carbs controls my hunger and makes it possible for me to cut down on what I eat without feeling deprived. But for me it is the calorie levels alone that make the difference in my weight. The main reason I cut carbs is to bring down my blood sugar to healthy levels.

5. Some Diabetes Meds Make Weight Loss Very Tough

Avandia and Actos will pack baby fat cells on you and make it impossible to lose weight. Insulin can cause weight gain, especially, it seems, Lantus, though Levemir is supposed to cause little or no weight gain. I gained no weight on R insulin but did gain, rather dramatically, on Lantus. One reason to cut carbs if you are on insulin is to cut down the amount of insulin you need, this may also help you with weight loss. Insulin is a fat building hormone.

Some diabetes drugs may help with weight loss--if you cut back on what you eat while taking them. Metformin and Byetta are the only drugs with proven weight loss effects, but those effects are very modest. Studies show most people who take these drugs over a year lose only a couple pounds. You can harness their power to lose more if you cut back on what you eat.

6. Diet Pills are Dangerous and Usually Ineffective

Alli will keep you from metabolizing fat which is NOT healthy for your body as it leaches out fat soluable viatmins. But even if you can tolerate it, at the end of a year the studies show you probably won't lose more than a couple pounds and you won't keep those pounds off if you stop the drug. Is this worth the risk of pooping in your pants? That's the best known side effect of drugs that block fat digestion.

The over the counter "fat burners" are either complete scams or contain ephedra and other stimulants that are not good for your long-term health and may be very dangerous if you, like most people with diabetes, have a tendency towards high blood pressure. In that case, they can cause strokes. So if you must experiment with one of these, check your blood pressure regularly. Mostly though, they are likely to lighten only your wallet.

No over the counter drug will "blocks carbs." There is prescription drug that does, Acarbose (Brand name Precose) but the side effects of this drug are horrendous gas so bad that its maker, Bayer, stopped marketing the drug shortly after introducing it because even though it is mildly effective, no one would take it for very long. I could take one Precose a day and block about 15 grams of carbs, but quite frequently the gas would be very overwhelming. Unless you are all done with social life involving other humans, you probably don't want to block carbs.

If a "carb blocker" does not give you gas, it isn't blocking carbs, because any carbs that reach your gut not digested will ferment there thanks to the helpful bacteria we all have.

7. The Dirty Little Secret the Diet Books Leave Out

If you lose a significant amount of weight you will have to eat at a calorie level only one or two hundred calories higher than the calorie level you ate at to lose weight. All the studies show this to be true. It is the major reason that people are unable to keep off the weight they lose on diets.

So if you are serious about losing weight, you have to accept that the diet you'll have to eat for the rest of your life to maintain that weight loss will be one very much like the one you were eating while you lost the weight. In short, you'll have to stay on a diet for the rest of your life or all the weight will come back.

The people who profit from writing diet books rarely tell you this. They sell a ton of books to people who lose a ton of weight and then pack it right back on and become the market for New and Improved diet books by authors who pretend to have found yet another "diet secret." Even with those few books that do tell you this, experience shows that the readers ignore it, certain that THEY will somehow not find weight loss maintenance the problem that 95% of all other dieters have found it to be.

It's ugly, but it's reality. And if you want to lose weight and keep it off, you better take it seriously.

That's why it is a lot better to lose weight slowly but steadily eating a diet of foods you enjoy eating rather than going on any extreme diet which deprives you of things you love to eat. Do that, and you'll spend your diet looking forward to eating those foods as soon as the diet is over and when you burn out on dieting you will end up eating all those foods and they will pack the weight right back on.

If you are serious about weight loss, the diet is never going to be over.